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Cape Coral, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach challenge SFWMD

Posted at 7:17 PM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-10 06:44:32-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- The cities of Cape Coral, Sanibel Island, and town of Fort Myers Beach are banding together to fight for reduced discharges from Lake Okeechobee during the rainy season.

The municipalities are appealing a September ruling by the South Florida Water Management District that increased minimum flow levels from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River to 400 cubic feet per second.

The appeal requests less water into the Caloosahatchee during the rainy season, and more during the dry season to help with drought conditions and salinity levels in our estuaries. "Currently it was approved at 400 minimum flow level. We'd like to see them take that up to 720 during the dry season," said Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello.

Philip Flood, a representative for the South Florida Water Management District said he could not comment on pending litigation, but he did provide an explanation as to why the flows were increased to 400 CFS in September. A statement read in part:

"SFWMD's evaluation of the MFL rule for the Caloosahatchee River has taken place over the past eight years. The Governing Board funded 11 scientific studies of the river in 2010. In 2016, the results of those studies were presented to the public at a two-day public science symposium in Fort Myers. The minimum flow greatly differs from a restorative flow. Restorative flow is the amount of fresh water necessary to improve the existing conditions to restore ecological features that existed previously. The minimum flow is established as the threshold amount of fresh water needed before the estuary could experience significant harm. A violation of the 400 cfs MFL could result in ecological impacts in the Caloosahatchee River, taking as long as two years to recover."

However, Coviello is not convinced. "My understanding is that science is not in a real world environment, it's in a closed environment," he said. "When I went to their meeting, part of their discussions revolved around studies that were done several years ago. We know what we're dealing with today. We know what we just went through the last four months with algae in Cape Coral."